Popularity Contest | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Popularity Contest

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Popularity Contest, Jerk Alert Productions, at WNEP Theater. In the popularity contest of life, the average, unassuming folks go unnoticed. Giving those people "the chance to shine" is the point of this hour-long series of original monologues by solo performer Jason Anfinsen. Problem is, his characters are not only unpopular but also generally uninteresting. The motley crew includes an awkward guy with a passion for fries, a 16-year-old stoner in court, a glutton who eats endangered animals, a grandfather reminiscing about egging his enemies' cars, and a timid son forced by his father's dying wish to face his fear of water.

Under John Lutz's direction, Anfinsen's quick physical transformations give us an immediate idea of each character, but his slow delivery of the monologues and their often abrupt endings make this a lackluster event. Anfinsen is best in a rant against the sun--that "sneaky fireball from hell"--by a fair-skinned man of Norse ancestry. Here he brings energy and a great deal of humor to a short bit that seems inspired by his own experience. But with the show's other personalities, he can't convey enough depth or originality to make them popular with an audience.

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